By Jordan Florit
Alvaro Morata probably shouldn’t have described himself as a ‘Real Madrid substitute,’ even though that’s exactly what he was when Chelsea spunked £70m on him. The quiet player, who quietly goes about his quiet business of scoring a goal every two-and-a-half games, is spoken about very loudly by loud commentators and loud headlines, such as “Is Misfiring Alvaro Morata Turning into the Next Fernando Torres?” and “Alvaro Morata had a debut to forget for Atletico Madrid.”
I wonder if he wore a short-sleeved shirt, instead of the long-sleeved shirt favoured by his countryman Torres, he would still have the comparisons made? A ridiculous thought, I know, made in response to the ridiculous chattering that follows Morata around like an overzealous James Milner on a man marking mission. Perhaps if his career wasn’t being defined by replacing Torres and/or Diego Costa at both Chelsea, Atleti and Spain, and wasn’t subject to inane hoodoos like the #9 shirt at Stamford Bridge being cursed by the likes of Franco Di Santo and Khalid Boulahrouz, he’d be getting along just tickety-boo.
Alvaro Morata is 26 (TWENTY SIX). He was in the Champions League Team of the Season at the age of 22 (TWENTY TWO). He’s not some plum, rocking up at the world’s best clubs like some kind of Bebe tribute act on a globetrotting expedition. He’s a two-time Copa Del Rey winner. He’s a two-time Coppa Italia winner. He’s a two-time winner of La Liga. He’s a two-time Serie A winner. He’s a bloody two-time Champions bloody League winner. He’s not some muppet who collects winners’ medals as the third choice ‘keeper.
And yet he’s treated like that kid at school who was automatically tarnished as a bad apple because his sibling a couple of years above was a nightmare for the teachers and now his surname is inextricably linked to trouble. Simultaneously, he’s treated like that kid at school who was automatically destined to fail because his sibling a couple of years above was a wonder child and teacher’s pet and now his name is inextricably linked to success that he can’t emulate. But in this instance, he doesn’t have a naughty older brother or a wickedly gifted sister, the collective they have just created a straw man sibling, so they can challenge and chastise him.
Commentators ooze asinine remarks about his form and pundits pore over his misses as if they cost a small child their dinner that night. The fact is, Morata has 15 goals in 29 games for the Spanish national team and has roughly emulated that ratio his entire career at club level too. He popped in two past Malta on Tuesday night, but of course that will be chalked off as being against the-smallest-country-in-the-European-Union, even though it came after the Sky Sports commentary team had explicitly stated Morata’s sole inclusion was to help his “mindset,” as if they were privy to Luis Enrique’s mental mechanisms. Of course, his inclusion had absolutely nothing to do with his three goals in six league games since joining Atleti in January, and completely unrelated to his goal every other game for his country.
If he scores, he’s at best described as doing his job, and at worse it’s explained away; if he doesn’t, then well, it’s a free for all. How dare that handsome, humble, and “polite” - according to Antonio Conte - man go 13 games without scoring. Heresy. Treason. Footballing blasphemy. Let’s ignore the fact that since Didier Drogba left Chelsea in 2012, only Diego Costa has actually excelled up front for Chelsea - so much so that they even brought a 36-year old Drogba back in 2014.
In that time, Chelsea have had in their strike department The Striker Formerly Known As Fernando Torres, Samuel Eto’o OAP, Demba Friggin Ba, Radamel not-the-same-anymore Falcao, Loic Remy (INJ), and perma-loaned Michy Batshuayi. I’m starting to think the problem wasn’t Morata, are you?
“To be honest I see Morata as far better now than when he used to arrive [to the national team] as a Chelsea player,” Enrique told reporters after Spain’s 2-1 win over Norway on Saturday, “He now has more self-confidence and he has always been a great player for us, but now he is more decisive in his play.”
But, Christ, what a price he had to pay to receive the plaudits he has been deserving of all along. In November, he told Spanish newspaper ABC that he had sought the help of a psychologist to “recover [his] happiness in football.” He said it had helped and he was now happier than ever at Chelsea, but when the January Transfer Window rocked up like a drunken ex wagging their sexy bits at you after ten pints, Mauricio Sarri opted for his tried and tested Gonzalo Higuain of Napoli fame, and let Morata join his boyhood club, Atleti, on an 18-month loan.
Just the 41 players currently out on loan from Chelsea, then? Yep. Absolutely nothing to do with the club. Morata’s gone straight into Diego Simeone’s starting XI, you say? Yep. There was nothing untoward with the floor to ceiling negative press coverage in England though. Olivier Giroud won the World Cup without scoring but was still appreciated by the whole of France and deemed invaluable by his international manager Didier Deschamps; I wonder if that could be applicable elsewhere? Oh, never mind.
Alvaro Morata won’t win the Balon d’Or, but nobody was suggesting otherwise - certainly not him. At 26 years old, though, he may well continue stocking up his trophy cabinet, and with Spain looking set to remain at the top table of international football, he may well get his hands on a trophy on the world stage, too.
For all he has achieved, and will hopefully go on to achieve, I hope he forgets about the torrent of twaddle he was subject to whilst in England, and hopefully his entire time spent on these here Brexity shores - save his FA Cup winners medal, of course. He can use the newspapers, with their dross headlines, as padding in the boxes laden with his trophies.
Alvaro Morata - Hyperbole’s Prince.
Words by Jordan Florit - Artwork by FATC - All Rights Reserved